Internet crime, also sometimes referred to as “cybercrime” is considered by Interpol to be the most rapidly-growing type of crime, and laws to address it have evolved at warp speed in recent years.
Miami internet crime defense lawyers at Jacobs Keeley understand that the speed, convenience and anonymity of the online world create a false sense of security. Prosecutions can include individuals and small groups, as well as vast and complex networks and organizations.
Generally, internet crimes can be divided into three broad areas:
- Attacks against computer software and hardware. These include malware and intrusion networks.
- Financial crimes. Examples are online fraud, hacking into online financial services and phishing.
- Abuse. These would include crimes such as transmission of child pornography or “sexploitation.”
Federal and sometimes international agencies routinely take charge of these investigations, though state laws address these issues too. Specifically, Chapter 815 of Florida Statutes tackles computer-related crimes like hacking of financial and government records. There are also statutes like F.S. 847.0137 that prohibit transmission of child pornography, F.S. 847.0135 that bars online solicitation of a minor and F.S. 784.048 that prohibits cyberstalking.
Additionally, the Florida Attorney General’s Office has dedicated a Cyber Fraud Section dedicated to the review, investigation and enforcement against companies and individuals who perpetuate internet-related fraud against consumers.
These crimes are mostly categorized as felonies, and carry severe penalties. For example, cyberstalking is considered a third-degree felony, and a conviction can net up to five years in prison.
Computer-related criminal cases for which we offer experienced defense services:
- Credit card fraud
- Identity theft
- Internet fraud
- E-mail interception
- Distribution of child pornography
- Solicitation of a minor for sex
Whether at the federal or state level, law enforcement has become increasingly aggressive in pursuing these offenses, often utilizing advanced technologies to initiate “stings,” particularly targeting sex-related internet crimes.
Our computer crime defense attorneys provide skillful representation throughout the criminal justice process, from investigation to exhaustive research, before and during trial and through the appellate process, if necessary.Federal Internet Crimes
By its very nature, the internet defies borders. When internet-related crimes are alleged, state law enforcement agencies cannot execute search warrants, subpoena witnesses or make arrests outside their borders. This is why so many computer-related crime cases are handled at the federal level.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (also referred to as IC3) is a multi-agency task force involving the FBI, National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The goal of IC3 is to receive, develop and refer criminal complaints regarding internet-related crimes.
Complaints may be referred to different agencies, depending on the nature of the crimes alleged.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was passed by Congress in 1986, and has been amended and expanded numerous times since then to accommodate advancing technologies. The law bars individuals from intentional access of protected computers without authorization or by exceeding authorization. “Protected computer” under the statute refers to those used by financial institutions, the government or those used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication. There are seven basic types of criminal activity itemized in act, which include:
- Obtaining national security information
- Compromising confidentiality
- Trespassing in a government computer
- Accessing to defraud and obtain value
- Damaging a computer or information
- Trafficking in passwords
- Threatening to damage a computer
Still, there are many elements that have been criticized as outdated and overbroad, and U.S. attorneys have been accused of abusing the statute. For example, some prosecutors have used it to pursue cases against minors for downloading lists or sharing information. There was also the high-profile case of Aaron Swartz, a computer programmer and “hactivist” who was charged with 11 violations of the CFAA and faced 35 years in prison for allegedly illegally downloading numerous academic journal articles from a university. He later committed suicide.
Another statute wielded by federal prosecutors is the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998. Codified in 18 U.S.C. 1028(a), the law prohibits the knowing transfer or use of another person’s identity without authority with intent to commit, aid or abet unlawful activity. The offense carries a maximum prison term of 15 years, plus fines and subjection to criminal forfeiture of property. When these schemes involve violations of other statutes, including identification fraud, credit card fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud or financial institution fraud, the penalty can be upped to 30 years.
Additionally, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, an amendment to the Federal Wiretap Act, protects against the unlawful interception of wire communications.
Finally, some of the most serious federal internet-related crimes have nothing to do with money. These would include computer-related sex crimes. These are addressed in 18 U.S.C. 71 (Obscenity), 18 U.S.C. 109A (Sexual Abuse), 18 U.S.C. 110 (Sexual Exploitation and Other Abuse of Children) and 18 U.S.C. 117 (Transportation for Illegal Sexual Activity and Related Crimes).
In these cases, even first-time offenses can carry a minimum mandatory of 5 to 15 years in prison.Internet Crime Defense
Law enforcement devotes substantial resources to catching online “predators.” In many cases, they pose as minors or other potential victims in order to lure offenders.
One unfortunate aspect of the internet is that once illegal images or other evidence is submitted or received, it’s almost impossible to fully delete. Federal and state investigators hire computer forensic expert who can comb through your files and history with ease. Sometimes, the evidence contained is extremely damaging.
In developing pre-trial strategy, our defense lawyers will analyze your degree of computer sophistication, and whether there is any possibility the images or actions were downloaded or perpetuated by accident or by someone else.
In some sexual exploitation cases, defendants may not have known the individuals pictured or with whom they were conversing were minors. If there is no intent, there may be no criminal culpability.
We will examine warrants for specificity, as those that are overly-broad may yield evidence that is not admissible.
Motions can be initiated to challenge the validity of government expert witnesses, and we also submit motions to dismiss when there is insufficient evidence.
Because these cases can be so complex and there is so much at stake, it is necessary for defendants to seek experienced legal counsel as soon as they are arrested or become aware of an investigation.
Contact the Miami Internet Defense Lawyers at Jacobs Keeley Trial Lawyers for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights.
Call us at (305) 358-7991.